In the Nation's Service:

A Lens into R.O.T.C.

“Crawl-Walk-Run.”

This is R.O.T.C.’s incremental training philosophy for cadets, theoretically allowing for any interested Princeton student to join and slowly work towards building the necessary leadership, physical and mental skills for the military. The experience of being in R.O.T.C. is extended as an open invitation to any Princeton student — no commitment, but the typical schedule involves 6:30 a.m. physical training, evening classes and off-campus field training.

Multiple student cadets say that the juggling academics and R.O.T.C. commitments requires good time management. But it’s worth it according to Platoon Sergeant Sean Webb ’15, who notes, "It gives a sense of purpose and meaning beyond … just doing school.”

With the spirit of trying to visually capture this “sense of purpose,” staff photographer Karen Ku embedded herself into R.O.T.C. for two months to capture a typical week in the life of a student cadet. It’s certainly different.

Meet R.O.T.C.
Cadet Leadership

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Physical Training (PT)

Rise and shine! While most of campus is still asleep at 6:30 a.m., cadets are already starting their day with physical training, also known as PT. The juniors of Tiger Company, referred to as MSIII’s, lead these hour-long sessions three times a week, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. Cadets first assemble in formation, followed by stretches and the day’s workout. PT workouts vary from circuit workouts, runs, swim workouts, ruck marches and more. Through this training, R.O.T.C. aims to progressively build cadets’ endurance, strength, and most importantly, discipline. Along the way, of course, the company also builds a strong sense of camaraderie.

"The next exercise will be the push-up. The push up! Starting position move. In cadence. In cadence! Ready? Exercise."

“When I get to Princeton, Eisgruber’s gonna say, ‘How’d you earn your living boy? How’d you earn your pay?’ I will reply with strong irritation, ‘Earned my living fighting grade deflation.’”

Leadership Labs

Every Friday afternoon, cadets attend a leadership lab where tactics are put into practice and leadership is put to the test. Labs are planned by senior cadets, also known as MIV’s, and include day and night land navigation (LandNav), patrolling operations and squad situational training exercises (SSTX). Perhaps the most exciting of these events are the SSTX Lanes (pronounced “sticks lanes”) in which cadets break up into squads and receive a mission. In one run they might conduct reconnaissance on enemy forces and in the next they might eliminate a hostile target. While labs are understood to be a constructive training simulation, cadets act with the knowledge that their actions might bear real consequences in just a few years. In a combat environment, just one pull of the trigger can have deadly consequences.

In the series of photos to the left, enemy or sapper forces previously engaged in a firefight with cadets approach the regrouping squad speaking loudly in Arabic and motioning with their hands. The motions of the man on the left become increasingly provocative and dangerous. He makes a sharp movement for his pocket and suddenly the squad leader yells “bang!” His squad reacts with successive “bang, bang, bangs,” taking out the second man. Upon inspection of the dead men, cadets realize that only their first kill can be justified. The man on the right was unarmed and demonstrated no aggression. This serves as a particularly stark reminder of the difficult, often life-or-death decisions that cadets who serve in combat branches may one day have to make.

Photo by Ryan Fulmer

Military Science Classes

MSL 101 may never have graced Princeton’s course registrar, but beginning in their freshmen years, cadets take one military science class per semester. These classes progress from a basic introduction to the army and basic leadership training to strategy and tactics and leadership in the field. Like the other components of R.O.T.C., classes follow the “crawl-walk-run” philosophy. According to Lt. Col. Wilcha, the Executive Officer/Asst. Director of the Army Officer Education Program for Tiger Battalion, “It’s [a] building process. It’s going from them being that cadet taking all the orders...to that cadet that now has a responsibility in the second year to take care of his or her team and not just take orders from their superiors but give orders to their subordinate cadets.” It’s a slow process, with the time commitment increasing year-by-year, but by the time cadets are seniors, they’re running. (Note: Cadets do not receive credit from the University for their military science courses.)

Veterans Day

“With each passing generation fewer and fewer people are serving in our nation’s armed forces. Fewer and fewer members of Congress have any military experience. American society [has] by circumstance, if nothing else, become increasingly disconnected from its military. That is why occasions like this Veterans Day observance become ever more important not only to honor those who have served and sacrificed, but to also help keep the U.S. military connected to the American society it serves and protects.” -Lt. Col. Knight, Director of the Army Officer Education Program for Tiger Battalion